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Social enterprises have been around for a long time, and in recent years have grown in both prominence and sophistication thanks to the demonstrated impact they can have on peoples’ lives.
According to Social Enterprise Australia, there are over 12,000 social enterprises in Australia employing more than 200,000 people – roughly in line with the scale of Australia’s mining industry. 
Beyond their significant economic impact (which is an impressive $21 billion per year), social enterprises play a distinctive role in communities. They tackle major social and environmental challenges that persist in our country – from unemployment to affordable renewable energy, the housing crisis and domestic violence.
And while they are increasingly sophisticated in their business operations, their financial resilience still depends on philanthropy and the support of large corporate partners, like Charter Hall, in the early years to reach a scale that allows for self-sufficiency.
Luke Terry is the CEO and co-founder of White Box Enterprises, a social enterprise dedicated to identifying real market gaps and scaling businesses to create jobs for young, disadvantaged Australians. He explains why achieving healthy revenues is so critical for social enterprises to maximise impact.
“Social enterprises operate like any other regular business however they incur costs that standard employers don’t. These costs deliver the impact. They include additional wrap-around support that directly contributes to higher retention rates and better employment outcomes.”
“These are real businesses providing great quality products and services, while delivering incredible community impact. When you’re able to find the balance between generating a profit and delivering outcomes, you can scale and move beyond philanthropy.”
Charter Hall has worked alongside White Box since 2021. In FY23, our partnership enabled 148 employment opportunities, while offering 1,700sqm of space in Brisbane’s CBD for White Box and the social enterprises they support.
White Box’s goal is to enable 5,000 jobs using jobs-focused social enterprises by 2030. They are doing this by supporting existing social enterprises to scale and grow, while also building enterprises of their own, the latest being Civik, a telecommunications social enterprise in Cairns creating jobs for people experiencing barrier to work in regional communities.
Social procurement empowers social enterprises to move away from relying solely on philanthropy. By sourcing goods and services from social enterprises, organisations can use their existing spend to generate social value and enhance community well-being. It’s not about spending more money – it's about getting more value from the money already spent.
Pat Ryan is the CEO of Dismantle, a not-for-profit which works with at-risk youth to overcome social barriers in their critical years. Dismantle operates a stream of activities across Western Australia, including their work integrated social enterprise, ReNew Property Maintenance. As he explains, there’s substantial room for growth and positive impact through strategic social procurement initiatives.
“Social procurement is truly a win-win because you get the services delivered, but for minimal extra cost there's a significant community, social or environmental impact.
“Charter Hall is one of ReNew Property Maintenance’s core clients, providing property and garden maintenance services to Charter Hall assets across Perth. For every dollar that Charter Hall spends with us, $0.40 of that goes directly into the pockets of our youth employees. Charter Hall is enabling us to pay young people to attend our program, to get their first job, and to be able to access the support from our team of case managers.”
Pat continued, “I see Charter Hall as the leader of social procurement in WA. WA still does not have a social procurement policy environment that recognises social enterprises, and Charter Hall started dedicating a portion of its supply chain to social procurement four years ago. That's really set the tone for other companies to follow suit.”
Charter Hall has supported Dismantle for six years. In FY23, we enabled 27 youth employment outcomes through ReNew Property Maintenance. This resulted in over 2,300 full-day shifts being made available and the distribution of more than $260,000 in wages.
Charter Hall’s social impact strategy is focused on delivering lasting change and maximising benefits for individuals and communities, through partnerships like White Box and Dismantle.
With the country’s largest diversified property portfolio, we have the opportunity – and responsibility – to leverage the size and scale of our portfolio to create value for our social enterprise partners and the communities that they support.
Charter Hall is primarily focused on two areas: employment opportunities for vulnerable Australians and providing sustained support to a range of communities affected by adversity.
Charter Hall Chief Experience Officer, Natalie Devlin, said, “At Charter Hall our strategy revolves around building strong foundations for long-term prosperity and a lasting impact.
“Our scale is a key differentiator for us – not only in business but also in community. We can cater to the immediate needs of communities while also creating a sustained effect by partnering with social enterprises dedicated to making a difference. It’s a way we can use our purchasing power for good, and we are proud of how we have evolved our approach over the years to focus on the communities most in need to maximise our impact.”
To learn more about our community investment, click here.